Birches Poem by Robert Frost | Summary, Analysis, Theme, Line by Line Analysis

Birches Poem by Robert Frost | Summary, Analysis, Theme, Line by Line Analysis

Birches Robert Frost Poem


Birches, an exquisite blank-verse lyric of American poet Robert Frost, published in Mountain Interval in 1916. As a boy, the poet was much interested in climbing birch trees, swinging from the tops, till the supple branches bent down to the ground.

Theme of Birches by Robert Frost

The central theme of Birches is that the poet dreams of becoming a swinger of birches once again in his life as he was during his boyhood. As the poet is weary of considerations that his life involves, he expresses his desire to be a swinger of birches at least for the present time, but it does not mean that he wishes to escape from his life on earth. It is not the desire of escape that forms the central theme of the poem, but the love of the earth.

Birches by Robert Frost Line by Line Analysis

When I see birches…do that-The poet thinks that birches bend to left and right against the upright, dark trees due to the swinging of some boy. But a boy’s swinging won’t make them bend permanently. which is only possible by the ice-storms.

loaded– covered, wrapped up. They click upon…rises -Birches begin to produce a sound, as that of a piece of iron, when it blows,

and turn many…enamel– With the blowing of the wind, birches appear many coloured enamel, which is a shining thing. A very good imagery indeed!

Soon the sun’s warmth…show-crust– When the sun is up, birches let the pieces of crystal fall (i.e., ice-pieces) so thick and fast on the snowy crust that they appear to be making a frontal attack on the snowy ground.

Such heaps of…had fallen– The crystal ice is compared to “heap of broken glass, and the poet guesses as though the inner dome of heaven had fallen and its pieces had spread over,

withered bracken– bracken is a fern abundant on heaths, hillsides, etc., and it looks dried up.

trailing– following.

Truth broke in icestorm– Truth is personified here. The poet is trying to record here the fact about birches that came to his mind suddenly

Some boy too far…baseball-The countrybred boy is likely to learn his game of bending birches, being left alone in his game.

One by one he… to conquer– It is interesting to note that Frost is recording his own experiences as a boy. The countrybred boy has learnt to ride and subdue his father’s trees one by one, until he became strong enough himself.

He learned all there… to the ground– The skill of the boy has been described here.

He always… top branches– The boy never lost control of himself while swinging, poise-balance, control.

Consideration– heavily pressed with worldly ideas.

And life is…wood– Life has been compared to pass through.

I’d like to get away… not to return– The poet wants to be a swinger of birches again to get away from the earth.

But dipped its top…coming back– But the poet does not want to ascend to Heaven, he therefore wants to come back to the earth while swinging the birches. He hopes to get the maximum delight by going up and coming down.

Birches by Robert Frost Summary

When the poet sees birches bending to left and right across the lines of dark trees standing upright, he likes to think that some boy must have been swinging them. But he rethinks that mere swinging may not bring birches so low to stay there. It must have been caused by ice storms. Often one must have seen them quite loaded with ice on a sunny winter morning after a rain. Birches begin to click themselves as it blows, and they become multi-coloured like enamel.

As the sun rises up, birches begin to shed crystal shells very swiftly like avalanches on the snow-crust. The crystal ice looks like heaps of broken glass, as though the inner dome of heaven had fallen and spread over everywhere The crystal pieces of ice are driven to the ‘bracken’ and appear unbreakable : although they are kept down for long and they do not raise themselves again, but years afterwards their trunksare seen arching in the woods. Their leaves touch and trail on the ground. These arched trees then appear like girls on hands and knees throwing their hair before them over their heads to dry in the sun.

As the poet was going to tell more about it, Truth about the ice-storm flashed in his mind. He felt that some boy, a country bred who had gone out to bring back the cows, must have been bending them. The boy must have gone too far from town to learn baseball. His only play was with the things like birches that came handy during summer or winter, and he was all happy to play alone.

One by one, he went up all the trees of his father until he grew himself physically strong enough. Not even a single tree was there that the boy could not have subdued and run over. He acquired all skill needed in the matter. He learnt that launching too soon would carry him and the tree direct to the ground. And when he had reached the top of branches, he maintained the balance and climbed the tree with the same care as one shows in filling up a cup to the brim, and even above the brim.

Then he applied is feet to the birches and gave start and reached the ground through the air in no time. The poet himself was once a player among birches. And so he thinks to become once more. He wishes to be so particularly when he is troubled by earthly worries and problems, and when life seems to him to be pathless wood with all its hurdles like the cobweb sand the twig’s lashing across the face and eye.

The poet would like to go away from the earthly desires and then return to them after getting refreshed by swinging. He wants that no fate should misunderstand him and grant him only half of his desire so that he may be permitted to leave the earth but not to return to it. Earth is the right place to make love, and nowhere else love is to get fulfilled. He would like to go by climbing a birch tree, and would like to climb black branches up to the snow-white trunk toward heaven, until his burden becomes unbearable to the tree. Again he would come back from top to bottom and this would be a source of good joy for him both going and coming back. One could do worse if one did not like to be a swinger of birches.

Birches Robert Frost Analysis

Birches is one of Frost’s most famous poems. It makes a high level of appeal to love among human beings: “Earth’s the right place for love.” It creates a love for the earth and earthly things, for “I don’t know where it is likely to go better.”

Birches is a beautiful poetic piece full of nature images and descriptions. The swinging of the birches shaken by the icestorms, and watched by a boy, in the early hours of the day, till

“…the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells

Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust-

Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away

You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.”

makes a real appeal to the reader. It is a striking picture of nature. A similarly beautiful picture of nature is to be found in the following lines too:

“You may see their trunks arching in the woods

Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground

Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair

Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.”

This extract contains a striking similarity between the images, arching trees and the girls with disarrayed hair, each rendering the other more beautiful and complete. It is an imagery drawn from life’s experiences and observations. The entire poem abounds in such natural images and genuine experiences.

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Beneath the record of external observation, there runs an undercurrent of philosophy in the poem. One is sure to be struck by the philosophical outlook of the poet in the following:

“It’s when I’m weary of considerations,

And life is too much like a pathless wood

Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs

Broken across it, and one eye is weeping

From a twig’s having lashed across it open.”

And then after a pause, the poet takes recourse to the great Truth that

“Earth’s the right place for love:

I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”

The poem is lyrical in content, but it has dramatic turns in its sudden changes of ideas and images. It is rich in eloquence and expression. In the main, it is a narrative or descriptive poem full of “fact and fancy”. It has “the power to blend observation and imagination.”

Birches is in blank verse, which is a fit vehicle for the expression of deep thoughts and feelings. Blank verse is also suitable for the “poetry of talk.” Brower thinks that the poem has a perfect rhythmic form. He writes that “The life of the poem, ever fresh, runs through the unbroken span of the verse, which will not be stopped until the end, and which carries the voice through a series of upward and downward swings re-enacting the movement of thought.” The reader is sure to feel the increasing speed of rhythm as the poem runs to a close.

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